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Renée Montez−Avinir

“Persevere in the midst of any crises and keep going with focus.”

In the energy sector, few women are in leadership positions, and even fewer come from Africa, where women generally struggle to climb the corporate ladder. That is why Renée Montez-Avinir stands above the crowd.

As of September 2020, she became the managing director of Africa Oil and Power, bringing more than 15 years of experience to the highest level of Africa’s leading energy investment platform. Originally from South Africa, where she continues to live, she has worked across the African continent.

She has distinguished herself as an ambitious business development expert, connecting national leaders and executives at all levels and leading many major investment events, including the CEO Institutional Investment Summit with NASDAQ in New York, the CEO DFI Summit in Washington, D.C., and the World Economic Forum on Africa.

On her watch, there’s an array of investment initiatives planned for emerging markets, including Angola, Nigeria, Mozambique, Senegal, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan and South Africa.

Previously, Montez-Avinir was head of operations for Africa at UK-based Investor Publishing, a leading international events company.

She holds a degree in communication science from Endicott College in Massachusetts and two post-graduate diplomas in public relations and event management from Damelin Business College in South Africa.

The Edge asked Montez-Avinir about the pursuit of leadership as a woman, as well as what leadership qualities are important, and how to achieve work-family balance.

You’ve had an impressive career path, reaching an executive level that is not as common for women as for men. What enabled you to reach such a high level?

Investing in oneself is key to success. Remain calm under pressure as well as lead by example with integrity and credibility. Have a personal strategy with a strong foundation and know the value of not giving up on yourself. Persevere in the midst of any crises and keep going with focus. Stay motivated and committed. Show your strength, communicate with confidence and network with emotional intelligence and agility. All this allowed me the opportunity to excel to the level where I am today.

Are there certain skills that have helped you see what your next step is and to make yourself known as someone who can perform the next-level job?

It’s having self-awareness, integrity and strong business acumen with a clear vision. That includes delivery with strategic thinking and the ability to motivate, influence and make innovative decisions when required. Those are part of the skills within me that enable me to perform the next-level job successfully.

What is your perspective on why there is a lack of women in C-level positions?

Women are never truly given the opportunity in these positions as they are often perceived as weak or challenged at every point when they step up and deliver. Additionally, women in leadership should engage in up-skilling and support each other in order to grow effectively in the workplace. They should not be intimidated by each other. This creates strain when promotions to C-level positions are looked at. Women should support women.

What advice would you offer women of colour who want to reach the C-suite level?

Take ownership of you. Invest in you. Education is important; so is self-confidence. Never give up on yourself. Read, research and support women. Challenge yourself daily, and if it gets hard, keep going.

How have you balanced work and family?

Being organized with defined structures.

Is there a disadvantage for companies in your industry that do not have women in top-level positions?

Yes. Women challenge the status quo when they can equally deliver as a man can. Companies should increase their investment to up-skill and empower women for equal opportunity. They can just as easily deliver with precision.

What challenges did you encounter on your path to an executive role? How did you persevere through these challenges?

I am constantly being challenged on decisions that I make as a woman leader. It’s important to remain focused, stay humble yet firm, follow through and overcome any fears. Have confidence, deliver beyond expectations and keep motivated. Balance stress and maintain positivity with perseverance. That’s what gives me balance to get through the challenges.

Describe your leadership style? Do you see this as being a leadership style that requires more emotional intelligence?

I have both a coaching and affiliative style of leadership. Emotional intelligence is required in order to obtain maximum results, in delivery of vision, goal and mission, including achieving commercial return on investment for the company, staff and stakeholders.

Who are your role models and how have these role models helped you along your career path?

Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey are two strong powerful women that not only inspired me but allowed me to learn from them. Their inner strength is admirable. Their impact to uplift the people and empower the community in words, action and determination to succeed in all they do is commendable and contagious. They are both revolutionary women who have championed a multitude of important causes throughout their lives. They have inspired, encouraged, and educated and provided support for many. They are indeed great role models and leaders to look up to.

Dave Gordon | Contributing Writer

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